Luckily for fans the co-main and main event of the latest UFC venture into Macau saved what was generally a poor card. But can those who weren't as impressive be put into fights that will force them to be exciting? Kyle McLachlan takes a look at who the main carders should be looking across the Octagon at next time out.
There were pretty high stakes right at the top of the card in Macau, Saturday August 23rd, but the rest of the card looked on paper like one of ONE FC's lesser bills.
Luckily there was plenty of thrills in the top two fights on the card, which may lead to some potentially important fights down the line.
Michael Bisping - 'The Count' is back to winning ways after a turgid showing against Tim Kennedy back in April. He used his rhythm-based style to build to a crescendo, where his accumulative blows took their toll on the tiring, bloody, but ultimately resilient Cung Le. A rare stoppage victory for Bisping -- his first since 2011, when he stopped both Jorge Rivera and 'Mayhem' Miller -- solidifies him in the top ten, where he has been a mainstay these last few years. He called for a fight with Luke Rockhold after the win, but it seems that Joe Silva has bigger plans for Rockhold and is looking to match him up with former light heavyweight champ' and recent middleweight title contender Lyoto Machida.
Therefore I would go with another former title challenger as Bisping's next fight. Previously a one dimensional and boring fighter, Thales Leites is now on a seven-fight winning streak, with four of those wins coming since his return to the UFC. He showed at last night's Tulsa card that he now has the stand-up to close the distance against a rangy striker by battering Francis Carmont to a second-round stoppage. If Bisping can circumnavigate Leites it will show he can still beat his peers, and not just the veterans.
Cung Le- Speaking of veterans, at forty-two years old and with a 2-2 record over the past three years, it is clear to see that Cung Le is never going to be relevant going forward, despite being in tremendous shape for this fight. Le didn't fold despite his face threatening to run away from his skull, and showed that he still has the power in his kicks to do damage. Weighing in well under the light heavyweight limit in his last bout has seen another veteran, Dan Henderson, a likely candidate to join the veteran's of the 185lb division or at the middle ground of 'Franklin weight', where both Henderson and Le wouldn't have to kill their aged bodies as badly to make the cut. Both Le and Henderson are never going to be relevant in the title picture, so if they both want to avoid going out on a loss, this could prove a fun fight.
Tyron Woodley - After having his ability to explode taken away by a clinical performance from Rory MacDonald back at UFC 174 which dropped him to 3-3 in the last two years, Tyron Woodley needed another high-profile win to prove his victory over Carlos Condit back at UFC 171 was because of his elite-level standing and not a fluke following Condit's injury. Smashing Dong-Hyun Kim in a little over a minute proved that Woodley is very much at the elite level, and going forward he should be able to put himself into another bout with a high-ranked contender. I believe that both Woodley and Hector Lombard will not fight each other after having trained together, which is a shame as that is a fight between two athletic specimens that could see either man make a strong claim to being deserving of a shot at the 170lb. belt.
A lot of the welterweights widely perceived to be the best are already tied up. With Woodley being unranked when he got his chance to fight the top-five ranked Condit, maybe he should give a chance to someone on the cusp of the top ten, like Jordan Mein, who Woodley beat back at Strikeforce: Rockhold Vs Jardine in 2011. Their first bout was a dull display of lay 'n' pray by Woodley, which was the go-to game plan of 'The Chosen One' before he had really developed his striking.
Dong-Hyun Kim - As many armchair experts predicted, Kim's recent penchant for Chan-Jung Sung-esque balls to the wall violence would prove to be his undoing against a fighter with good timing, and Tyron Woodley showed that hypothesis to be true in the most brutal fashion. Kim is a well-rounded fighter, but cannot seem to blend his strong Judo top control with his haphazard striking style. A perfect fight for Kim to get back on the horse would be Mike Pyle, a similarly-ballsy and well-rounded fighter who suffered a quick knockout loss this weekend.
Zhang Lipeng - A fighter on the main card with a 7-7 record? Perhaps a move down to the 155lb division was what TUF China winner Zhang Lipeng needed, as he looked very strong in dominating Brendan O'Reilly on the ground and turning his face to mush. Whilst winners are usually matched with winners, Joe Silva and Sean Shelby will match the less experienced winners with more experienced losers if they need to be. A big lightweight who started off well this weekend before capitulating to a submission was Tony Martin. I'm not sure I'd pick Lipeng to win that fight, but outside of a debuting fighter, I'm not sure who else is lower on the pecking order that has some semblance of being a relevant competitor you could match him up against.
Guangyou Ning - Ning won the long-overdue TUF China finale in the 145lb. weight class last night with a win over Jianping Yang that gave you the feeling it could've been held back a little bit longer. Like, forever. With all respect to Ning, who started off well with a big overhand and tried to clinch victory with a tight guillotine in the second round, but neither he nor his opponent are anywhere near UFC quality, even with the expanded roster we have today. Both fighters were in very good condition though, so if they can maintain that whilst honing their skills there may be hope for them at the very bottom end of the division.
The third round was among the worst ever seen in the UFC, with both men feinting merely for show, and neither using their feints to try and open up opportunities. What you'd need to get a good fight out of Guangyou Ning is someone who is going to force him to fight. The ragged, crazy style of 'Cassius' Clay Collard, who took a bout with Max Holloway on a little over a weeks notice, will likely see him get another shot in the organization. His zany, come forward style would make a good stylistic match-up with the basic, all-round game of Ning, who will need fighters well outside the top 25 of the division if the UFC are going to be able to implement him in their next foray into the Far East.
So all in all, not a great card (or even a halfway decent one) but let's hope these fighters can be utilized well in the future.
Dear reader, who do you think the main carders should be matched up with next?
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